Giraffes, scientifically known as giraffa camelopardalis, are the tallest mammals on Earth. Standing at 14 to 19 feet (4 to 6 meters) tall and weighing 1,750 to 3,000 pounds (794 to 1,360 kilograms), they are quite the sight to behold. Males tend to be taller than females by about 2 feet (0.6 meters). They also sport the longest tail of any land mammal, measuring up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) including the tuft at the end. Surprisingly, giraffes have the same number of bones in their necks (7) as any other animal. They are also unable to turn their heads back, making them no more flexible than the average creature.
Giraffes can be found throughout the majority of the African Savannah. They will inhabit plains, grasslands and wooded areas. Males tend to live alone and will sometimes fight other males while females will often stay in small groups of other females and their young. Their long legs enable them to run at speeds of up to 35 miles (56 kilometers) per hour for short distances. They can also easily cruise at 10 miles (16 kilometers) per hour when traveling great distances. When giraffes walk, they will move both legs on 1 side of their body first and then move both legs on the other side. When they run though, they will move both legs at the front of their body first, followed by both legs in the back. Their speed and technique help to outrun their natural predators, such as lions.
Giraffes are herbivores and will eat twigs and leaves that are unattainable to other creatures, with acacias being a favorite. Not only will they use their long necks to reach for their food, they also have a 21 inch (53 centimeter) tongue that adds even greater assistance in getting something to eat. They have 1 set of teeth at the front of their bottom jaws, a second row at the back of their top jaws and a hard plate at the top of their mouths that they use to chew up their food before swallowing. They will also regurgitate food and continue chewing it sometimes, much like a cow. Drinking water for a giraffe can be dangerous as they must enter into a vulnerable position in order to reach a watering hole. They get the majority of their water from the leaves that they eat and therefore can go without drinking for several days. They can however, drink up to 10 gallons of water when they do get real thirsty.
Female giraffes give birth to a single calf after a 15 month gestation period. Since they stand while giving birth, the calves fall from about 5 feet (1.5 meters) above ground. Calves will learn how to stand half an hour after birth and will run with their mothers 10 hours after birth. If they can survive, giraffes can live up to 25 years.
All giraffes are unique creatures. Even though giraffes found in the same area can look similar to one another, every individual has their own spot pattern on them. Such grand creatures deserve our respect and understanding. If that happens, then we won’t have to worry about losing them anytime in the near future.
“Giraffe” 14 November 2010
“Giraffe Facts” 14 November 2010
“Giraffe” 14 November 2010